Reflection for Sunday – July 31, 2016
Preacher: Theresa Stanley
Isn’t it curious that during this season of summer leisure for many of us, when many spend time at summer cottages, family reunions, picnics, and various travel experiences, that our Sunday readings remind us of our death, the inheritance that we receive and all that we must leave?
What will we leave? To whom will our accumulations be left?
Will the value that we have attached to our precious possessions be appreciated? Or will this “stuff” be discarded?
The recent heart wrenching attacks on innocent people that have become so common remind us of the transitory nature and seeming unfairness of this life. We do not control our life.
Qoheleth, a sage of 3 BCE, warns, all is vanity. Hebel, the Hebrew word for vanity, is translated as a mere breath, vapor or puff of wind. Our life experiences, whether filled with deep love and delight or heart breaking pain, are passing and like a child blowing bubbles our experiences can be delightful, deeply fulfilling, profoundly meaningful—then puff, they are gone. Qoheleth observed that his contemporaries “labor with wisdom, knowledge, and skill”—then puff, they were gone. The fruits of their labor left to others. No matter how blessed, wealthy, or healthy we are, we all will die.
In the Gospel, a voice calls to Jesus, “Tell my brother to share the inheritance with me. We can assume that this is a complaint against the elder brother who according to Code of Law found in Deuteronomy received a double portion. Disputes were settled after a juridical process. So, Jesus rightfully defers intervention. He then advises, “that one’s life does not consist in possessions.”
Possessions can ease the inconveniences of our lives but do not necessarily add to our deepest fulfillment and meaning. Just ask anyone dying of cancer if wearing designer clothes or being covered with a designer comforter makes their dying process any more meaningful or easier?
Our life is greater than what we own. To affirm this reality, Jesus then tells his listeners and us, the parable of a rich man who had an abundance from his harvest. We can assume that his harvest was not achieved without the help of others. The rich man boasted: “I have no space to store so many good things.” The space most lacking in his life was the space within. The space of the barn was secondary. Instead of dismantling the hardness of his heart, he dismantled his barn perceived to be too small—so he could keep for himself the grain and other goods he had acquired.
“I do not have space,” we also say… Actual space for our things…Space for prayer, space to share our presence with family or a friend, space to contribute monetarily to an international organization supporting refugees or those in dire need.
Space to become in involved in our election process, space to attempt to dismantle institutional structures of injustice and bigotry
We are born with a God given purpose, specific gifts, and a limited length of time to achieve this purpose. Most times our purpose is discovered by the evolving circumstances of our life journey, where God’s presence is discerned. Our readings this weekend challenge us to bring this reality to consciousness and action.
The rich man’s life was unexpectedly demanded of him. The precious gift of life that God continues to breathe into us will also be demanded of us. We are co-heirs with Christ by virtue of our Baptism. Our inheritance is not land or property but “our life hidden with Christ in God” and the liberation, which Christ confers on us.
We leave behind how we have allowed this inclusive liberating love of Christ to transform us and how we have helped to transform others with this love.